One of the ways we're passing the time here at the hospital is watching DVDs of classic TV shows, and today we're watching the Bob Newhart Show. The third season DVD has an episode called "The Great Rimpau Medical Arts Co-Op Experiment," a very funny episode from 1974 which shows the result of the various doctors in the office forming a co-op for medical care between the associates and their families.
The episode starts with Bob complaining that the plastic surgeon on the floor of his office charged him $85 to remove a wart. That got everyone talking about forming a co-op for free medical care. However, as soon as they did, everyone started filling each other's schedules with a never-ending stream of complaints. Bob tries to organize everyone into group therapy, with disastrous results.
It occurred to me while I watched this play out to its comedic conclusion that the episode provides an object lesson in the rationing of services. When a rational basis for regulating the demand for services is removed, the demand increases exponentially. Without that regulating force of money, the demand far outstrips the supply, creating shortages. It shows that money offers an objective control on demand so that the market can have flexibility in increasing supply and benefitting suppliers in a manner that barter simply cannot. Without it, there is no objective way in which to prioritize and ration access to services.
There's a lesson in there for advocates of single-payor systems and nationalized health care, in which decisions on rationing get transferred to the government rather than the consumer or supplier. It's not a direct analogy, but the episode certainly suggests an example for that as well.